Out With the Old, In With the New… Classes

Never again will a loaf of zucchini bread mysteriously appear in the staff room after freshmen put condoms on vegetables. No longer will students take Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 or British Literature. These classes have been replaced with a series of new courses suggested by the “common core” learning system being adapted by our school. However, Health, Algebra 1, Geometry, Algebra 2 and British Literature all have been revised or replaced into different subjects, while the course information remains: Health is being implemented into PE; the math classes are being renamed Math 1, 2, and 3; and EWRC is being substituted for British Literature as another option for a Senior English class.

There are mixed emotions regarding these changes, especially the new common core math classes. Some feel that the new system is trying to meld too many subjects into one course. Alissa Saylor said, “I hate it. It’s like they are trying to cram so many different subjects into one class and it’s put together awfully.”  However, as Mariel Waldon said, “It’s got some glitches in it, since it’s a new system, but I think the collaboration of all the concepts will be better.” Another aspect of the courses that students found frustrating was the textbooks. Cyndal Jacobson found the workbook to be “set up illogically”. She said that “In the first chapter it seems like it’s more complicated than all the other chapters.” Maddy McMillan found that “it doesn’t make sense and doesn’t explain everything well enough”.

Although many students are having a hard time with this new course, hopefully as the teachers get more used to teaching it they can get a feel for how to make it easier for their students to understand.  As Math teacher Laurie Shipley said, “We teachers and students are discovering that there are not many resources out there to use in the classroom, since this shift is so new.  It’s sort of like we are pioneers, and we are finding out that this may mean overcoming obstacles we did not see coming.” Even though it is hard to adjust, the teachers are embracing this positive change in our country’s education system. Rob Lahey (SLV math teacher) says that he thinks that “this is a great change for not only the SLVHS mathematics program but for all students hoping to succeed in college and beyond.” Shipley also said “I am excited about the Common Core which allows classes to cover material in more depth.  This will give students the tools they need to be successful in future jobs or education.”

One change that has received no vocalized negative reactions is the incorporation of Health into Freshman PE classes.  This change will give freshmen an extra period to fill with a more academically beneficial course.  PE teachers Marcus Northcott and Mark Mercer are both confidently taking on this new challenge.  Northcott said that they “are able to relate the health topics with our physical education teaching so that the entire health and well being of the body is covered uniformly.”  Mercer shared this view, along with his added opinion that “ two hours is too long to stay actively engaged and physically active for 9th grade students.  Health integrated into PE is a more balanced learning environment where the kids can be active, use technology and learn health materials.”  Both will now be spending close to two hours a week in a classroom teaching health.

Replacing Health in Freshmen’s schedules is a new class called Digital Literacy. Cornell University defines digital literacy as: “The ability to find, evaluate, utilize, share, and create content using information technologies and the Internet.”  When asked by Principal van Putten what skills staff members most wished SLV students possessed,  they reported to her that “students needed to understand how to use technology more effectively and more critically.” Adding a digital literacy class was the school’s response to their request. “I believe that we must embrace the digital age, and if we educate SLVHS students with new technologies and give them the tools to analyze and evaluate existing and new media, it will provide students with a common vocabulary around ‘digital literacy’ and they will develop a more critical awareness about their own digital identity.” says van Putten.

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British Literature is no longer taught at our school, and in its place is EWRC, a course to prepare seniors for college level English.  It was added because many of the seniors at SLV were not ready for college level English. According to Principal van Putten, statistics from our school show that “In 2012, 40% of the seniors earned “College Ready” status, 24% earned “Conditionally Ready” status and 37% earned “Not Ready” status based on their junior year EAP and CST assessments.  This year, our current seniors earned the following: 42% “College Ready,” 19% “Conditionally Ready,” and 39% Not Ready” status.”  This course will be available to the “Conditionally Ready” students, who will not have to take the English Placement Test if they earn a “C” or higher.

The new classes have been received with a variety of reactions, mostly positive with the occasional upset due to unfamiliarity.  The issues with the courses will most likely disappear as teachers become more familiar with the material their new classes involve. Even though some of these new classes may be a challenge for teachers to become adjusted to instructing, and even if they cause a couple glitches in the system, they are all being put in place for the good of the students.

-April Martin-Hansen

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